India's Shooting Nightmare – 15 shooters, 10 events, 1 final, 0 medals
A total of 15 Indian shooters competed across 10 different events during the Tokyo Olympics, and only one of them made it to the final medal match.
Shooting is one of the most unpredictable sport there is.
This fact has once again been reiterated by the Indian shooters with their shambolic show at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Indian shooters were expected to return from Tokyo with a rich haul of medals. They were expected to erase from the memories of Indian fans the great debacle of 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
But only that none of it really materialised. And instead of the memories of Rio being erased from the fans' memory, the shooters gave them some more baggage to carry on for three more years until the 2024 Paris Olympics.
To sum it up, it was a complete disaster.
After winning medals in shooting for three consecutive editions of the Olympics from 2004 to 2012, India has now been devoid of the podium in shooting for two straight editions.
A total of 15 Indian shooters competed across 10 different events during the Tokyo Olympics, and only one of them made it to the final medal match – Saurabh Chaudhary in Men's 10m Air Pistol.
The rest 14? All faltered.
Entering the quadrennial event as some of the world's top-ranked shooters, the Indians simply failed to withstand the infamous Olympic pressure and fell like a pack of cards.
The only moment of joy for India in shooting came during the very first of the Tokyo Olympics when Saurabh Chaudhary topped the qualification stage of Men's 10m Air Pistol to enter the final.
So far, Saurabh had never faltered in the final of any event he had competed in. He had always returned with a medal. So when he qualified for the final that too in the form he was in during the qualification stage, the Indians were ecstatic. They were sure of a medal around Saurabh's neck; the final was just a formality.
Besides, Mirabai Chanu had just delivered the country its first medal at the Tokyo Olympics. And so, by the time Saurabh Chaudhary took to the Asaka Shooting Range just minutes after Mirabai's glory, the expectations had skyrocketed.
Saurabh was supposed to carry forward what Mirabai Chanu had started just minutes before.
But it seemed to be a bit too much on the shoulders of a 19-year-old. The otherwise calm and composed Saurabh Chaudhary looked a bit nervous during the final, at least on television.
The nervousness showed in his game as well. After the first series of five shots, Saurabh was last in the standings. He climbed up one position to seventh at the end of ten shots but was taken into a shoot-off at the end of two more shots by the South Korean Kim Moose.
The Indian fans were nervous. Their hero had just faltered when it mattered the most and was on the brink of being the first shooter to be eliminated from the final.
Saurabh maintained his calm and survived. Kim Moose sent packing. The Indians breathed a sigh of relief. They believed once again.
However, the happiness did not last long. By the time the next two shots ended, Saurabh was shown the door by China's Zhang Bowen after he shot a below-par 9.6 in his fourteenth and final shot.
In his debut Olympic appearance, Saurabh had ended seventh. This, after dominating the qualification stage.
The fans thought it was just one of those rare moments when things just did not go their way. But, they had no idea what was to pan out in the next ten days.
Since that very moment, nothing really went India's way in shooting. They exited one after the other without a fight. If some finished below 30s, some finished in 20s, and some messed up in the final few shots to exit.
It was a complete nightmare.
The only other moment where it felt as if the Indian shooters would pull themselves out of their misery was the Mixed 10m Pistol event. It was yet again Saurabh Chaudhary who was in the thick of the action.
He, along with the young Manu Bhaker, topped the qualification stage 1 and looked set to make it to the medal match. But, the qualification stage 2 brought their downfall, and the pair finished seventh.
From being predicted of bringing home four medals at the very least, the Indian shooters return home empty-handed with a best of seventh-ranked finish in two events.
How did the Indian shooters perform so poorly? What happened to the best in the world when it mattered the most?
Pressure? Or something else? We do not know.
Hopefully, we will when the postmortem happens at the end of the Olympics.